Book Review: Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

In early 2014 I started Nick Bilton’s book Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal and only read a few chapters.  As I kicked off my 2015 New Years Resolution of more reading I decided to pick up where I left off and finish the book.

It’s a phenomenal story, assuming its accurate unlike the stories I read in the media about the book on Jeff Bezos.  The story of Twitter is an intriguing one because it’s a company I have followed from its very infancy and I know all the players involved.   If you like or use Twitter’s social media and you are interested in the back story of the founders then I highly recommend checking it out.  As I reflected on the book, several topics / themes really stuck with me:

VC hold a lot of power – on two separate occasions, the VCs involved with Twitter got together and fired the CEO.  Both times the CEO was one of the founders.  This is shocking to me as a founder of a software company.  How could outsiders come in and fire the founder?  I don’t come from the VC world and have never worked at VC backed firm so I’m not the best judge but this seems odd.  However given the millions of dollars they have invested I can see why they have a vested interest.

Fred Wilson is a no BS kind of guy – I’ve been following Fred’s blog at AVC since I first heard him give his 10 Golden Principles of Successful Web Apps presentation at FOWA in 2010.  (side note, if you’re in software that video is a must see).  I have pretty much read every single one of Fred’s blogs since that speech.  In the book he is portrayed as a straight up no non-sense VC. He is a straight shooter that tells it like it is.  Knowing Fred’s thoughts on Twitter for his blog I can only imagine how vested an interest he has.  I should also note that Fred and his firm made over $1 Billion on Twitter (that’s BILLION with a capital B).

Jack Dorsey played it smart – for many years I thought Jack was still heavily involved with Twitter as one of its original founders and on several occasions he was credited with originally creating it.  It’s only after I read the book that I realized that Jack had been cut out and used his position to build up his personal brand.  I wonder if Gary Vaynerchuk, the guru of personal brand building, would be proud or not.

Starting companies with friends can be messy – Twitter was started by a group of 4 or 5 buddies.  They had worked together before and decided to come together for this project after their original idea Odeo failed as podcasting software.  I run a software company with my brother and its part of a family business so I could see how things could be messy.  But that’s why it’s so important that everyone is on the same page and honest with each other.  That’s the only way it works.

Overall I thought Nick Bilton did a great job and I definitely think it’s movie worthy if the world is ready for another Social Network movie…